Egypt Vs. Sudan?


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Talks are stalled over how to deal with the impact of a $5 billion dam that could threaten Egypt’s lifeblood.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, currently under construction, on May 15, 2016. (DigitalGlobe via Getty Images)

A diplomatic spat between Egypt and Sudan is spilling over into the long-running dispute over a dam Ethiopia is building on the Nile River, which Cairo sees as an existential threat.

On Thursday, Sudan officially warned of threats to its eastern border from massing Egyptian and Eritrean troops, while Egypt has also moved into a disputed triangle of territory claimed by both Cairo and Khartoum. Late last week, Sudan abruptly recalled its ambassador to Egypt, the latest chapter in a fight that started last summer with trade boycotts and that has only intensified in recent weeks.

At heart, the bad blood is part of a broader regional conflict pitting Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other countries against what they see as Turkey’s meddling in the region. Ankara has supported Qatar in its diplomatic battle with other Gulf States, and it is now jumping squarely into the Red Sea, making Egypt increasingly nervous. Cairo was particularly incensed when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Sudan in December 2017 and won rights to Suakin Island, a port city on the Red Sea, raising concerns that Ankara could build a military base there.

That diplomatic dustup is making it much harder to deal with another potentially explosive problem in the relationship: Sudan’s support for Ethiopia’s construction of a massive $5 billion dam on the Nile River that could choke off vital supplies of water downstream. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has called the dam a matter of “life or death.”

All the regional rivalries around the Red Sea are intertwined, said Kelsey Lilley, associate director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council, “but the dam itself is a big irritant among the three countries.”

And while the three countries have butted heads over the dam for years, the feud between Egypt and Sudan is escalating quickly.

“The tensions are significant and real and higher than they’ve been,” said Steven Cook, a North Africa and Middle East expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Things are starting to come to a head.”

The broader dispute has cemented a freeze in talks between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia on how to manage the impact of the dam, even as the clock is ticking. The dam is more than 60 percent complete, and Ethiopia could start to fill the reservoir as soon as this summer, leaving little time to find workable solutions.

“This should act as a political wake-up call for immediate action for joint decision-making on the filling issue, because 2019 will be a critical year,” said Dr. Ana Cascão, an expert on Nile hydropolitics, who has written extensively about the dam.

A dam at the head of the Blue Nile in the Ethiopian highlands has been a dream since the 1960s. But it was only in 2011 — when Egypt was rocked by the Arab Spring and facing domestic upheaval — that Ethiopia unilaterally decided to start work on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, the biggest hydroelectric project in Africa.

Ever since, Egypt has been terrified of the potential impacts. The dam, a huge power project at the head of the Blue Nile meant to meet fast-growing Ethiopia’s need for more electricity, will hold a year’s worth of river flow behind its concrete walls. Depending on how quickly Ethiopia fills the dam, downstream flows to Egypt could be restricted — a potentially fatal threat for a country dependent on agriculture that is already facing severe water shortages.

What Studies in Spatial Development Show in Ethiopia-Part II

Priyanka Kanth's picture

In Part I of our blog —based on a background note we wrote for the World Bank’s 2017–2022 Country Partnership Framework for Ethiopia—we presented our key findings on the spatial or regional distribution of poverty and child malnutrition in Ethiopia.

In Part II of our blog, we look at changes in road density over the ten years from 2006 to 2016, and in nightlights in six cities over four years from 2012 to 2016.

Changes in road density pointed to greater economic concentration towards the center of Ethiopia and the north of the country. These are also areas of greater population density. Figure 2a shows that, between 2006 and 2016, the increase in road density was concentrated in certain regions, notably Ethiopia’s capital of Addis Ababa, as well as Tigray in the north of the country and in Oromia in the center.

Figure 2a: Changes in road density and length between 2006 and 2016

Source: World Bank visualization based on data from various UN agencies

Figure 2b: Rural Access Index (RAI) and major roads in 2016

Source: World Bank visualization based on data RAI (World Bank).

Remote and economically lagging regions, and Amhara Region, see lesser increases in road density. Taking the development of roads as a proxy for the development of infrastructure, this suggests that infrastructure development has not been homogeneous across all regions. It also shows that road connectivity for some regions is poor, both within those regions and with other regions, with consequences for labor mobility, the transportation of goods and services, and for agricultural productivity as the distance and travel times to markets are longer.

Despite the large infrastructure investments undertaken by the Ethiopian government in the past ten years, accessibility by road to rural areas remains low in Ethiopia; we can see its distribution across the country in Figure 2b. The Rural Access Index was 21.6 percent in 2016, signifying that only around 22 percent of the rural population had access within a 2km distance of them to a “decent” road.

Twinkle, twinkle little light

Finally, we look at nightlights in some of the secondary cities. From Figure 3 it could be interpreted that urban GDP is stagnant as there were no significant changes in the density or distribution of night-time lights over the period of 2012–2016, even though urbanization outside Addis Ababa was ongoing and urban poverty has been reduced since 2012.

As per the World Development Report 2009, nightlights are not a good proxy for GDP; however, differences in the pattern of nightlights over a given time are correlated with changes in GDP. In figures 3a-b, we see that the trend of nightlights across several secondary cities in Ethiopia remains constant. Therefore, secondary cities don’t seem to grow in keeping with Addis Ababa, the largest urban center of the country.

Figure 3: Spatial dimension of nightlights
a) Total brightness of nighttime lights

Source: World Bank visualization based on data from NOAA’s VIIRS Satellite.

b) Average brightness of nighttime lights.

Source: World Bank visualization based on data from NOAA’s VIIRS Satellite
The significant increase in GDP witnessed by Ethiopia is primarily due to growth in agriculture in rural areas and in the service sector. The country’s push for developing its manufacturing sector is relatively recent and might explain the figures for secondary cities better. It is likely that secondary cities are witnessing growth in the service sector—and not in industrial or manufacturing sectors—and that this growth is therefore not resulting in any significant changes in the number or density of nightlights.

In addition, the influx of migrants into Addis Ababa is higher than in other secondary cities, suggesting that real and perceived opportunities lag behind in secondary cities.

Combining our analytical findings with our visualization of spatial development, we concluded that spatial development outcomes could be increased through interventions, primarily in four areas, which will we explore in Part III of our blog series.

 

Data provided by DEC survey unit. Maps produced by the Data Management Unit.

What Studies in Spatial Development Show in Ethiopia-Part II

Priyanka Kanth's picture

In Part I of our blog —based on a background note we wrote for the World Bank’s 2017–2022 Country Partnership Framework for Ethiopia—we presented our key findings on the spatial or regional distribution of poverty and child malnutrition in Ethiopia.

In Part II of our blog, we look at changes in road density over the ten years from 2006 to 2016, and in nightlights in six cities over four years from 2012 to 2016.

Changes in road density pointed to greater economic concentration towards the center of Ethiopia and the north of the country. These are also areas of greater population density. Figure 2a shows that, between 2006 and 2016, the increase in road density was concentrated in certain regions, notably Ethiopia’s capital of Addis Ababa, as well as Tigray in the north of the country and in Oromia in the center.

Figure 2a: Changes in road density and length between 2006 and 2016

Source: World Bank visualization based on data from various UN agencies

Figure 2b: Rural Access Index (RAI) and major roads in 2016

Source: World Bank visualization based on data RAI (World Bank).

Remote and economically lagging regions, and Amhara Region, see lesser increases in road density. Taking the development of roads as a proxy for the development of infrastructure, this suggests that infrastructure development has not been homogeneous across all regions. It also shows that road connectivity for some regions is poor, both within those regions and with other regions, with consequences for labor mobility, the transportation of goods and services, and for agricultural productivity as the distance and travel times to markets are longer.

Despite the large infrastructure investments undertaken by the Ethiopian government in the past ten years, accessibility by road to rural areas remains low in Ethiopia; we can see its distribution across the country in Figure 2b. The Rural Access Index was 21.6 percent in 2016, signifying that only around 22 percent of the rural population had access within a 2km distance of them to a “decent” road.

Twinkle, twinkle little light

Finally, we look at nightlights in some of the secondary cities. From Figure 3 it could be interpreted that urban GDP is stagnant as there were no significant changes in the density or distribution of night-time lights over the period of 2012–2016, even though urbanization outside Addis Ababa was ongoing and urban poverty has been reduced since 2012.

As per the World Development Report 2009, nightlights are not a good proxy for GDP; however, differences in the pattern of nightlights over a given time are correlated with changes in GDP. In figures 3a-b, we see that the trend of nightlights across several secondary cities in Ethiopia remains constant. Therefore, secondary cities don’t seem to grow in keeping with Addis Ababa, the largest urban center of the country.

Figure 3: Spatial dimension of nightlights
a) Total brightness of nighttime lights

Source: World Bank visualization based on data from NOAA’s VIIRS Satellite.

b) Average brightness of nighttime lights.

Source: World Bank visualization based on data from NOAA’s VIIRS Satellite
The significant increase in GDP witnessed by Ethiopia is primarily due to growth in agriculture in rural areas and in the service sector. The country’s push for developing its manufacturing sector is relatively recent and might explain the figures for secondary cities better. It is likely that secondary cities are witnessing growth in the service sector—and not in industrial or manufacturing sectors—and that this growth is therefore not resulting in any significant changes in the number or density of nightlights.

In addition, the influx of migrants into Addis Ababa is higher than in other secondary cities, suggesting that real and perceived opportunities lag behind in secondary cities.

Combining our analytical findings with our visualization of spatial development, we concluded that spatial development outcomes could be increased through interventions, primarily in four areas, which will we explore in Part III of our blog series.

 

Data provided by DEC survey unit. Maps produced by the Data Management Unit.

Reflecting on ‘The Amhara Psychology’

By  yalmazborsa

Recently, a piece was posted online written by Befeqadu, a blogger, an activist, interested in and usually posting findings, thoughts and ‘feelings’ on issues that strike the average cyber-Ethiopians’ attention. I have a few things to say, and I present some findings that may add some depth to the author’s writing, if in fact he continues to research and engage with the topic. It is only because I genuinely believe he wants to expand his knowledge about this. The last few paragraphs of his piece are convoluted and funky, I am sure not only to me, but also to him, the author. In my last paragraphs, I lay out some things I’ve been noticing, in relation to his piece, but in general to what I feel is happening on social media as well.

Cheers,

Hewan

Befeqadu’s piece was titled ‘The Amhara Psychology’. He starts off with trying to identify and define what contemporary Amhara is in comparison with what it historically represented. Then he highlights how tracing the language might help us pin down the evolution of the people who speak Amharic, an OK approach, but which thereby subtly declares that those who speak it would be those who are called Amhara. He also claims, without citation, that “ [l]egend has it that it was in Shoa, in the 13th century, that the language was first born” and further, that “the language is younger than Cushitic languages that include Afaan Oromo and Somali”. Primarily, it is with respect that I say, one should not make such a bold heading for a piece that isn’t even three pages long and for one which more than factual and evidence based research only presents exhausted theories about the Amhara. How does one understand the psychology of a group of diverse people? (Didn’t we tackle this in anthropology 101)

In the book, Church and State (1270 – 1527) by Taddesse Tamrat, Taddesse uses ‘Amhara’ to represent not the Amharic speaking group, but a Christian ‘advance guards’ that expanded to the south, facing conflicts with the Shewans (64). They are represented differently from the Tigre. He writes “It is apparent that all the Semitic linguistic groups south of the Tigre region had a similar origin. The Amhara tribal group is the most northerly of these communities and was probably the earliest to be established as such”. Taddesse here is explaining the southward expansion of Christians prior to the 9th century, further proving that Amhara did in fact exist before the 9th century. In fact, he continues to write, “the earliest recorded tradition of Christian settlement in the region indicates that there was already a distinct Amhara population…” (37-38). Further, Taddesse writes Yikunno Amlak’s dynasty was comprised of “Amhara and the Christian communities of Shawa” (67). I use this to present a theory, that perhaps the Amhara were not entirely Christian, and could have been pagan, and or Muslim if they had to be identified as their own group here. Or perhaps, the Amhara were their own distinct group, just like the Shewa.

Befeqadu has ignored Church documents in his writing, and I would like to guide his attention to one Gedl, Gedle Teklehaymanot, of the king not the saint. This also mentions the Amhara. It is to be noted that the Gedl was written in the 800s. The roots, Biher, languages and descriptions of the people of Ethiopia are stated in the volumes of Gedle Teklehaymanot.

Other books include: The Ethiopians by Edward Ullendorff states that Amharic has been the “Lesanne Negus” (language of the kings) officially from Yikunno Amlak’s period reign in 1270, although Amharic has been used by the Zagwe Monarchs, Lalibela et al. He presents evidence that Ge’ez and Amharic have co-existed side by side for centuries. “…the evolution of Amharic and the other modern languages can best be envisaged in this way: classical Ethiopic, in the course of time, spread over a fairly large area and, when political and other circumstances were propitious […], eventually became differentiated to such an extent that the varying speech forms were mutually unintelligible” (119). Further, the language may have been made the official national language in the past 100 years, it has been the court language for centuries (124) and its grammar studied by indigenous and foreign scholars since the middle ages. And, to Befeqadu’s list of sources that declare the Amharic language has Cushitic influences, there is solid evidence that its “Semitic stock remains appreciable” in Ullendorf’s book (125).

In Titov’s Modern Amharic Language script of 1976, he writes that there is evidence that the first known Amharic writings were from the 13th century. It should also be noted that even among the EthioSemitic languages, Amharic is classified as among the ‘Southern Semetic languages of Ethiopia, along with Guragigna, Harari, Argoba etc.. The northern Semetic languages are the Tigre, Tigrigna, the old Ethiopic  and Ge’ez’.

In Gedle Qewustos written in the 14th century, there are words such as ስርጓይ which are followed by similar descriptions by church scholars which state «በአገራችን ቋንቋ ይህ እምቧይ ይባላል» referring to Amharic.

For further research, please also refer to Girma Awgichew’s book on Ethiosemetic languages and his thorough discussion of the arguments about the evolution of Amarigna. You can also refer to Kidane Wold Kifle, Nibure-ed Ermias’s ኢትዮጵያ የአለም መፋረጃ and Mesfin Woldemariam’s book which came out 7 years ago, in 2003 E.C (sorry, I forgot the title)

Questions and points of reflection:

To his claim, “people -whatever their ethnic background is – have to be [Orthodox Christians] and speak Amharic to have the maximum chance of taking over leadership”, I say this is partially fabricated. The Solomonic Dynasty has never been based on whether or not one speaks Amharic, and not after Tewodros as well. It mattered most whether one can trace their lineage to the House of David (Asfa-Wossen Assrate 2015; Kebra Nagast) regardless of what language you spoke. [Zagwe was based on ethnicity, Solomonic dynasty was known for intermarriages (consider this as checks and balances).]

Befeqadu’s piece is also filled with chronological confusion. He seems to contradict himself by stating that Oromiffa was used in the Zemene Mesafint time-period, even though he stated that he was discussing post-Tewodross II Ethiopia. This confusion could be emblematic of a deeper confusion of understanding what exactly he is claiming, but that is to be excused.

He then states that Gondar royalties had adopted Catholic Christianity, even though it was only Atse Suseneyos of the 17th century who officially converted and even that after deep chaos in the empire, followed by revolts from all sorts of groups, including the re-known Wellete Petros. Rumour has it that Atse ZeDengil and Atse Ya’ekob had converted but this could have been spread by royalty to simply get rid of them as power rivals. Abune Gorgorious የኢትዮጵያ ቤተክርስትያን ታሪክ and Tsehafee Tezaz Gebreselassie, the first Ethiopian Tsefihet Minister’s books are references. This is also present in the reknown Ethopian historian’s TekleTsadik Mekuria’s volumes, especially ከይኩኖአምላክ እስከ ቴዎድሮስ. Further, he mentions that in Ethiopia’s entire history, it was only Aba Jifar who was able to keep his faith while ruling a province of Ethiopia. What are the sources? Atse Zeria Yakob and Atse Amde Tsion, have gone to the extremes of Adal to expand their country – had accepted Harrar’s and Adals rulers to rule as Muslim Sultans as long as they pay tribute to the central government. Menelik’s is only exceptional because of Aba Jiffar’s proximity to the central government. Orthodox Christianity was the basis on which one could claim the throne. This was, in fact, only changed upon the reign of Haile Selassie, who was the single ruler in Ethiopia’s history to have forced direct familial lineage to legitimize one’s quest for power, to this Teklehawariat, Ras Assrate and several are evidences.

But once again, I repeat, language or ethnicity has never been a factor to rule Ethiopia. The author makes speculations as to why the Tigre could have ruled over Ethiopia. It is interesting that a Church scholar mentioned to me today that this is written in several manuscripts that the Amhara of current Shoa have lineages that go back 4 or 5 generations to the Tigre.

Then again, the author’s chronology is off and one is not quite sure which century he is talking about when he says “Amhara people speak of their birth place (saying I’m Gojjamé, Gondarré, Showayé or Wolloyé)”. Up-to about four decades ago, Amhara had taken to mean ‘Orthodox Christian’ instead of much more (Mesfin Woldemariam). His assumption that one has to ‘amharanize’ oneself then becomes even more confusing. Is he saying that all who speak Amharic will become Amhara? How about his claim that the Amhara themselves don’t necessarily call themselves that. If he is speaking of the language becoming that of a working language in contemporary Ethiopia, then would he say the same for English as it is becoming the global language? Are we Englisizing ourselves, or do we consider that simply a uniting tool for humanity? But this for another discussion.

I believe Befeqadu’s piece took a turn for the worse upon his insulting claim that ‘the common psychological make-up of the Amhara today is pride’.

“The source of this pride is the long standing narration of heroism and leadership opportunity they had. They do have strong sense of ownership to the state. They make proud of the fact that they had central role in forming the Ethiopian state. And, therefore, they don’t like critics of the way Ethiopia is formed. They hate anyone who hates the Imperial rulers and dislike who doesn’t like the state.”

This particular paragraph above is what led me to conclude that Befeqadu’s piece is not educational, nor is it meant to be taken as such. It is his assumptions of what he believes; and the piece a reflection of Befeqadu’s true opinions. No one can be challenged for what they simply assume. He refers to a group he fails to recognize through his “research” as ‘they’. He tells us, the readers, disrespectfully, that the Amhara’s pride is ‘their’ fibre of identity. He repeats that ‘they’ had a central role in forming the Ethiopian state, even-though he himself has been arguing that it could have been true that the ancestors to the Amhara group were not necessarily Amhara. He concludes with what he cannot justify. Should we count the lineage of the rulers of Ethiopia to prove that most of them were not Amhara? Is this what we have come down to?

After this, the author has two to three paragraphs, which frankly I couldn’t clearly understand. Thus, I apologize for the conclusion I am about to draw, considering they may not necessarily be in line with what Befeqadu intended to say. How is it that a group that the author claims as extremely diverse and is collectedly given one name, meant to be individualistic? In fact, how is it then possible for an activist, a reader, to criticize a group where he has done little research on/about/– for being individualistic? Now, where the Amhara came from and what role they had in the state formation needs exhaustive research, but so does the fact that EPRDF’s rule has consolidated the Amhara to mean more than what it meant a hundred years ago. People should not assume the psyche of a vast group of people based on ‘ethno-nationalists’ they meet online. I say this, because I do not believe Befeqadu understands any group of people, especially not the people of Wello, or Gojjam, or Gondar, or Shewa entirely to have warranted him to write that they are proud and have a growingly ‘Amhara nationalism’.

Finally, my 2, 3, 4, +… cents.

I do not see much difference in forced narrations of history and Bef’s extremely bold 2 page writing on the Amhara Psychology. They both enforce things that are not necessarily factual, with unclear methodology and basically non-existent research. Doesn’t this counter what Befeqadu claims to stand for?

Also consider this: why has there been a growing trend to automatically disregard or insult Befeqadu’s or his friends’ writings recently? If a large group of people on social media are constantly revoking what you write, whether or not you are on point, then it could be people do not feel represented by what you present. If people state, over and over again, that their activists do not represent them, then there is clearly something off.

This is simply a post by someone who wanted to comment on things he views and hears and reads. Levine and other anthropological scholars are not enough to write about Ethiopia. Truthfully, I was more shocked by the amount of people he reached on social media than by the contents of his writings. If, I for one, know that I have so many followers, I would do further research and present my audience a respectful and thought-out piece. As a point of departure, if ever Befeqadu gets around to responding to this, I would like to ask, what exactly is the motif for this piece? Will you go on further to write about the Tigre Psyche? Or the Oromo Psychology? And won’t it be divisive to try to discuss such narrow definitions of ourselves?

I also suggest we come back to our own sources as well. The Orthodox Church has documents that we can use to analyze and discuss our past and which are accessible; we cannot only read Leslau and Levine and claim to know Ethiopia. Diversify your sources, dear Befeqadu, time and time again, there seems to be a debilitating Eurocentric approach you use in your writings. Ethiopia’s history is reconstructed from Ge’ez books.

Also, as a final question: why wasn’t this written in Amharic? Is there a reason for using English? I’m using English because my background forces me to be comfortable with English than Amharic. This I ask because your one comment to a friend’s latest book was that ‘to reach majority readers, he should have written in Amharic’.

Regardless, we appreciate the effort and I personally thank you for providing me with evidence that if I am ever to write about Ethiopians, I have to be simply careful with my research.

Selam

Reflecting on ‘The Amhara Psychology’

By  yalmazborsa

Recently, a piece was posted online written by Befeqadu, a blogger, an activist, interested in and usually posting findings, thoughts and ‘feelings’ on issues that strike the average cyber-Ethiopians’ attention. I have a few things to say, and I present some findings that may add some depth to the author’s writing, if in fact he continues to research and engage with the topic. It is only because I genuinely believe he wants to expand his knowledge about this. The last few paragraphs of his piece are convoluted and funky, I am sure not only to me, but also to him, the author. In my last paragraphs, I lay out some things I’ve been noticing, in relation to his piece, but in general to what I feel is happening on social media as well.

Cheers,

Hewan

Befeqadu’s piece was titled ‘The Amhara Psychology’. He starts off with trying to identify and define what contemporary Amhara is in comparison with what it historically represented. Then he highlights how tracing the language might help us pin down the evolution of the people who speak Amharic, an OK approach, but which thereby subtly declares that those who speak it would be those who are called Amhara. He also claims, without citation, that “ [l]egend has it that it was in Shoa, in the 13th century, that the language was first born” and further, that “the language is younger than Cushitic languages that include Afaan Oromo and Somali”. Primarily, it is with respect that I say, one should not make such a bold heading for a piece that isn’t even three pages long and for one which more than factual and evidence based research only presents exhausted theories about the Amhara. How does one understand the psychology of a group of diverse people? (Didn’t we tackle this in anthropology 101)

In the book, Church and State (1270 – 1527) by Taddesse Tamrat, Taddesse uses ‘Amhara’ to represent not the Amharic speaking group, but a Christian ‘advance guards’ that expanded to the south, facing conflicts with the Shewans (64). They are represented differently from the Tigre. He writes “It is apparent that all the Semitic linguistic groups south of the Tigre region had a similar origin. The Amhara tribal group is the most northerly of these communities and was probably the earliest to be established as such”. Taddesse here is explaining the southward expansion of Christians prior to the 9th century, further proving that Amhara did in fact exist before the 9th century. In fact, he continues to write, “the earliest recorded tradition of Christian settlement in the region indicates that there was already a distinct Amhara population…” (37-38). Further, Taddesse writes Yikunno Amlak’s dynasty was comprised of “Amhara and the Christian communities of Shawa” (67). I use this to present a theory, that perhaps the Amhara were not entirely Christian, and could have been pagan, and or Muslim if they had to be identified as their own group here. Or perhaps, the Amhara were their own distinct group, just like the Shewa.

Befeqadu has ignored Church documents in his writing, and I would like to guide his attention to one Gedl, Gedle Teklehaymanot, of the king not the saint. This also mentions the Amhara. It is to be noted that the Gedl was written in the 800s. The roots, Biher, languages and descriptions of the people of Ethiopia are stated in the volumes of Gedle Teklehaymanot.

Other books include: The Ethiopians by Edward Ullendorff states that Amharic has been the “Lesanne Negus” (language of the kings) officially from Yikunno Amlak’s period reign in 1270, although Amharic has been used by the Zagwe Monarchs, Lalibela et al. He presents evidence that Ge’ez and Amharic have co-existed side by side for centuries. “…the evolution of Amharic and the other modern languages can best be envisaged in this way: classical Ethiopic, in the course of time, spread over a fairly large area and, when political and other circumstances were propitious […], eventually became differentiated to such an extent that the varying speech forms were mutually unintelligible” (119). Further, the language may have been made the official national language in the past 100 years, it has been the court language for centuries (124) and its grammar studied by indigenous and foreign scholars since the middle ages. And, to Befeqadu’s list of sources that declare the Amharic language has Cushitic influences, there is solid evidence that its “Semitic stock remains appreciable” in Ullendorf’s book (125).

In Titov’s Modern Amharic Language script of 1976, he writes that there is evidence that the first known Amharic writings were from the 13th century. It should also be noted that even among the EthioSemitic languages, Amharic is classified as among the ‘Southern Semetic languages of Ethiopia, along with Guragigna, Harari, Argoba etc.. The northern Semetic languages are the Tigre, Tigrigna, the old Ethiopic  and Ge’ez’.

In Gedle Qewustos written in the 14th century, there are words such as ስርጓይ which are followed by similar descriptions by church scholars which state «በአገራችን ቋንቋ ይህ እምቧይ ይባላል» referring to Amharic.

For further research, please also refer to Girma Awgichew’s book on Ethiosemetic languages and his thorough discussion of the arguments about the evolution of Amarigna. You can also refer to Kidane Wold Kifle, Nibure-ed Ermias’s ኢትዮጵያ የአለም መፋረጃ and Mesfin Woldemariam’s book which came out 7 years ago, in 2003 E.C (sorry, I forgot the title)

Questions and points of reflection:

To his claim, “people -whatever their ethnic background is – have to be [Orthodox Christians] and speak Amharic to have the maximum chance of taking over leadership”, I say this is partially fabricated. The Solomonic Dynasty has never been based on whether or not one speaks Amharic, and not after Tewodros as well. It mattered most whether one can trace their lineage to the House of David (Asfa-Wossen Assrate 2015; Kebra Nagast) regardless of what language you spoke. [Zagwe was based on ethnicity, Solomonic dynasty was known for intermarriages (consider this as checks and balances).]

Befeqadu’s piece is also filled with chronological confusion. He seems to contradict himself by stating that Oromiffa was used in the Zemene Mesafint time-period, even though he stated that he was discussing post-Tewodross II Ethiopia. This confusion could be emblematic of a deeper confusion of understanding what exactly he is claiming, but that is to be excused.

He then states that Gondar royalties had adopted Catholic Christianity, even though it was only Atse Suseneyos of the 17th century who officially converted and even that after deep chaos in the empire, followed by revolts from all sorts of groups, including the re-known Wellete Petros. Rumour has it that Atse ZeDengil and Atse Ya’ekob had converted but this could have been spread by royalty to simply get rid of them as power rivals. Abune Gorgorious የኢትዮጵያ ቤተክርስትያን ታሪክ and Tsehafee Tezaz Gebreselassie, the first Ethiopian Tsefihet Minister’s books are references. This is also present in the reknown Ethopian historian’s TekleTsadik Mekuria’s volumes, especially ከይኩኖአምላክ እስከ ቴዎድሮስ. Further, he mentions that in Ethiopia’s entire history, it was only Aba Jifar who was able to keep his faith while ruling a province of Ethiopia. What are the sources? Atse Zeria Yakob and Atse Amde Tsion, have gone to the extremes of Adal to expand their country – had accepted Harrar’s and Adals rulers to rule as Muslim Sultans as long as they pay tribute to the central government. Menelik’s is only exceptional because of Aba Jiffar’s proximity to the central government. Orthodox Christianity was the basis on which one could claim the throne. This was, in fact, only changed upon the reign of Haile Selassie, who was the single ruler in Ethiopia’s history to have forced direct familial lineage to legitimize one’s quest for power, to this Teklehawariat, Ras Assrate and several are evidences.

But once again, I repeat, language or ethnicity has never been a factor to rule Ethiopia. The author makes speculations as to why the Tigre could have ruled over Ethiopia. It is interesting that a Church scholar mentioned to me today that this is written in several manuscripts that the Amhara of current Shoa have lineages that go back 4 or 5 generations to the Tigre.

Then again, the author’s chronology is off and one is not quite sure which century he is talking about when he says “Amhara people speak of their birth place (saying I’m Gojjamé, Gondarré, Showayé or Wolloyé)”. Up-to about four decades ago, Amhara had taken to mean ‘Orthodox Christian’ instead of much more (Mesfin Woldemariam). His assumption that one has to ‘amharanize’ oneself then becomes even more confusing. Is he saying that all who speak Amharic will become Amhara? How about his claim that the Amhara themselves don’t necessarily call themselves that. If he is speaking of the language becoming that of a working language in contemporary Ethiopia, then would he say the same for English as it is becoming the global language? Are we Englisizing ourselves, or do we consider that simply a uniting tool for humanity? But this for another discussion.

I believe Befeqadu’s piece took a turn for the worse upon his insulting claim that ‘the common psychological make-up of the Amhara today is pride’.

“The source of this pride is the long standing narration of heroism and leadership opportunity they had. They do have strong sense of ownership to the state. They make proud of the fact that they had central role in forming the Ethiopian state. And, therefore, they don’t like critics of the way Ethiopia is formed. They hate anyone who hates the Imperial rulers and dislike who doesn’t like the state.”

This particular paragraph above is what led me to conclude that Befeqadu’s piece is not educational, nor is it meant to be taken as such. It is his assumptions of what he believes; and the piece a reflection of Befeqadu’s true opinions. No one can be challenged for what they simply assume. He refers to a group he fails to recognize through his “research” as ‘they’. He tells us, the readers, disrespectfully, that the Amhara’s pride is ‘their’ fibre of identity. He repeats that ‘they’ had a central role in forming the Ethiopian state, even-though he himself has been arguing that it could have been true that the ancestors to the Amhara group were not necessarily Amhara. He concludes with what he cannot justify. Should we count the lineage of the rulers of Ethiopia to prove that most of them were not Amhara? Is this what we have come down to?

After this, the author has two to three paragraphs, which frankly I couldn’t clearly understand. Thus, I apologize for the conclusion I am about to draw, considering they may not necessarily be in line with what Befeqadu intended to say. How is it that a group that the author claims as extremely diverse and is collectedly given one name, meant to be individualistic? In fact, how is it then possible for an activist, a reader, to criticize a group where he has done little research on/about/– for being individualistic? Now, where the Amhara came from and what role they had in the state formation needs exhaustive research, but so does the fact that EPRDF’s rule has consolidated the Amhara to mean more than what it meant a hundred years ago. People should not assume the psyche of a vast group of people based on ‘ethno-nationalists’ they meet online. I say this, because I do not believe Befeqadu understands any group of people, especially not the people of Wello, or Gojjam, or Gondar, or Shewa entirely to have warranted him to write that they are proud and have a growingly ‘Amhara nationalism’.

Finally, my 2, 3, 4, +… cents.

I do not see much difference in forced narrations of history and Bef’s extremely bold 2 page writing on the Amhara Psychology. They both enforce things that are not necessarily factual, with unclear methodology and basically non-existent research. Doesn’t this counter what Befeqadu claims to stand for?

Also consider this: why has there been a growing trend to automatically disregard or insult Befeqadu’s or his friends’ writings recently? If a large group of people on social media are constantly revoking what you write, whether or not you are on point, then it could be people do not feel represented by what you present. If people state, over and over again, that their activists do not represent them, then there is clearly something off.

This is simply a post by someone who wanted to comment on things he views and hears and reads. Levine and other anthropological scholars are not enough to write about Ethiopia. Truthfully, I was more shocked by the amount of people he reached on social media than by the contents of his writings. If, I for one, know that I have so many followers, I would do further research and present my audience a respectful and thought-out piece. As a point of departure, if ever Befeqadu gets around to responding to this, I would like to ask, what exactly is the motif for this piece? Will you go on further to write about the Tigre Psyche? Or the Oromo Psychology? And won’t it be divisive to try to discuss such narrow definitions of ourselves?

I also suggest we come back to our own sources as well. The Orthodox Church has documents that we can use to analyze and discuss our past and which are accessible; we cannot only read Leslau and Levine and claim to know Ethiopia. Diversify your sources, dear Befeqadu, time and time again, there seems to be a debilitating Eurocentric approach you use in your writings. Ethiopia’s history is reconstructed from Ge’ez books.

Also, as a final question: why wasn’t this written in Amharic? Is there a reason for using English? I’m using English because my background forces me to be comfortable with English than Amharic. This I ask because your one comment to a friend’s latest book was that ‘to reach majority readers, he should have written in Amharic’.

Regardless, we appreciate the effort and I personally thank you for providing me with evidence that if I am ever to write about Ethiopians, I have to be simply careful with my research.

Selam

HOW THE NSA BUILT A SECRET SURVEILLANCE NETWORK FOR ETHIOPIA

The Intercept

“A WARM FRIENDSHIP connects the Ethiopian and American people,” U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced earlier this year. “We remain committed to working with Ethiopia to foster liberty, democracy, economic growth, protection of human rights, and the rule of law.”

Indeed, the website for the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia is marked by press releases touting U.S. aid for farmers and support for public health infrastructure in that East African nation. “Ethiopia remains among the most effective development partners, particularly in the areas of health care, education, and food security,” says the State Department.

Behind the scenes, however, Ethiopia and the U.S. are bound together by long-standing relationships built on far more than dairy processing equipment or health centers to treat people with HIV. Fifteen years ago, the U.S. began setting up very different centers, filled with technology that is not normally associated with the protection of human rights.

In the aftermath of 9/11, according to classified U.S. documents published Wednesday by The Intercept, the National Security Agency forged a relationship with the Ethiopian government that has expanded exponentially over the years. What began as one small facility soon grew into a network of clandestine eavesdropping outposts designed to listen in on the communications of Ethiopians and their neighbors across the Horn of Africa in the name of counterterrorism.

In exchange for local knowledge and an advantageous location, the NSA provided the East African nation with technology and training integral to electronic surveillance. “Ethiopia’s position provides the partnership unique access to the targets,” a commander of the U.S. spying operation wrote in a classified 2005 report. (The report is one of 294 internal NSA newsletters released today by The Intercept.)

The NSA’s collaboration with Ethiopia is high risk, placing the agency in controversial territory. For more than a decade, Ethiopia has been engaged in a fight against Islamist militant groups, such as Al Qaeda and Shabab. But the country’s security forces have taken a draconian approach to countering the threat posed by jihadis and stand accused of routinely torturing suspects and abusing terrorism powers to target political dissidents.

“The Ethiopian government uses surveillance not only to fight terrorism and crime, but as a key tactic in its abusive efforts to silence dissenting voices in-country,” says Felix Horne, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch. “Essentially anyone that opposes or expresses dissent against the government is considered to be an ‘anti-peace element’ or a ‘terrorist.’”

The NSA declined to comment for this story.

Addis Ababa is the capital city of Ethiopia. It is the largest city in Ethiopia with a population of 3.4 million. (Photo from March 2014) | usage worldwide Photo by: Yannick Tylle/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Addis Ababa is the capital city of Ethiopia.

Photo: Yannick Tylle/picture-alliance/dpa/AP

In February 2002, the NSA set up the Deployed Signals Intelligence Operations Center – also known as “Lion’s Pride” – in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, according to secret documents obtained by The Intercept from the whistleblower Edward Snowden. It began as a modest counterterrorism effort involving around 12 Ethiopians performing a single mission at 12 workstations. But by 2005, the operation had evolved into eight U.S. military personnel and 103 Ethiopians, working at “46 multifunctional workstations,” eavesdropping on communications in Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. By then, the outpost in Addis Ababa had already been joined by “three Lion’s Pride Remote Sites,” including one located in the town of Gondar, in northwestern Ethiopia.

“[The] NSA has an advantage when dealing with the Global War on Terrorism in the Horn of Africa,” reads an NSA document authored in 2005 by Katie Pierce, who was then the officer-in-charge of Lion’s Pride and the commander of the agency’s Signal Exploitation Detachment. “The benefit of this relationship is that the Ethiopians provide the location and linguists and we provide the technology and training,” she wrote.  According to Pierce, Lion’s Pride had already produced almost 7,700 transcripts and more than 900 reports based on its regional spying effort.

Pierce, now a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve and a lawyer in private practice, had noted her role with the NSA’s Ethiopia unit in an online biography. When contacted by The Intercept, she said little about her time with Lion’s Pride or the work of the NSA detachment. “We provided a sort of security for that region,” she said. The reference to the NSA in Pierce’s online biography has since disappeared.

Reta Alemu Nega, the minister of political affairs at the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington, D.C., told The Intercept that the U.S. and Ethiopia maintained “very close cooperation” on issues related to intelligence and counterterrorism. While he did not address questions about Lion’s Pride, Alemu described regular meetings in which U.S. and Ethiopian defense officials “exchange views” about their partnership and shared activities.

Al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam militants take a break at a front-line section in sanca district in Mogadishu,  on July 21, 2009. Somalia's hard line Shabab militia yesterday raided the offices of three UN organisations hours after they banned their operations on accusation that they were "enemies of Islam and Muslims. The armed group stormed the United Nations Development Programme, UN Department of Safety and Security and the UN Political Office for Somalia in two southern Somalia towns and impounded office equipment. The above foreign agencies have been found to be working against the benefit of the Somali Muslim population and against the establishment of an Islamic state in Somalia," the Shebab said in a statement. AFP PHOTO/ MOHAMED DAHIR        (Photo credit should read MOHAMED DAHIR/AFP/GettyImages)

Shabab and Hizbul Islam militants take a break at a front-line section in Sanca district in Mogadishu, on July 21, 2009.

Photo: Mohamed Dahir/AFP/Getty Images

Lion’s Pride does not represent the first time that Ethiopia has played a vital role in U.S. signals surveillance. In 1953, the U.S. signed a 25-year agreement for a base at Kagnew Station in Asmara, Ethiopia, according to a declassified NSA report obtained by the nonprofit National Security Archive. Navy and Army communications facilities based there were joined by an NSA outpost just over a decade later.

On April 23, 1965, the Soviet Union launched Molniya-1, its first international communications satellite. The next month, the NSA opened STONEHOUSE, a remote listening post in Asmara. The facility was originally aimed at Soviet deep space probes but, in the end, “[its] main value turned out to be the collection of Soviet MOLNIYA communications satellites,” according to a 2004 NSA document that mentions STONEHOUSE.

STONEHOUSE was closed down in 1975 due to a civil war in Ethiopia. But its modern-day successor, Lion’s Pride, has proved to be “such a lucrative source for SIGINT reports” that a new facility was built in the town of Dire Dawa in early 2006, according to a secret NSA document. “The state of the art antenna field surrounded by camels and donkey-drawn carts is a sight to behold,” reads the NSA file. The effort, code-named “LADON,” was aimed at listening in on communications across a larger swath of Somalia, down to the capital Mogadishu, the Darfur region of Sudan, and parts of eastern Ethiopia.

At a May 2006 planning conference, the Americans and Ethiopians decided on steps to “take the partnership to a new level” through an expanded mission that stretched beyond strictly counterterrorism. Targeting eastern Ethiopia’s Ogaden region and the nearby Somali borderlands, the allied eavesdroppers agreed on a mission of listening in on cordless phones in order to identify not only “suspected al-Qa’ida sympathizers” but also “illicit smugglers.”

“It is very troubling to hear the U.S. is providing surveillance capacities to a government that is committing such egregious human rights abuses in that region.”

From the time Lion’s Pride was set up until predominantly ChristianEthiopia invaded mostly Muslim Somalia in December 2006, the U.S. poured about $20 million in military aid into the former country. As Ethiopian troops attempted to oust a fundamentalist movement called the Council of Islamic Courts, which had defeated several warlords to take power in Somalia, Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Joe Carpenter said the two nations had “a close working relationship” that included sharing intelligence. Within a year, Ethiopian forces were stuck in a military quagmire in Somalia and were facing a growing rebellion in the Ogaden region as well.

“While the exact nature of U.S. support for Ethiopian surveillance efforts in the Ogaden region is not clear, it is very troubling to hear the U.S. is providing surveillance capacities to a government that is committing such egregious human rights abuses in that region,” says Horne, the Human Rights Watch researcher.  “Between 2007-2008 the Ethiopian army committed possible war crimes and crimes against humanity against civilians in this region during its conflict with the Ogaden National Liberation Front.”

For the U.S., “the chaos” caused by the invasion “yielded opportunities for progress in the war on terrorism,” stated a top secret NSA documentdated February 2007.  According to the document, the Council of Islamic Courts was harboring members of an Al Qaeda cell that the NSA’s African Threat Branch had been tracking since 2003. After being flushed from hiding by the Ethiopian invasion, the NSA provided “24-hour support to CIA and U.S. military units in the Horn of Africa,” utilizing various surveillance programs to track Council of Islamic Courts leaders and their Al Qaeda allies. “Intelligence,” says the document, “was also shared with the Ethiopian SIGINT partner to enable their troops to track High Value Individuals.” The NSA deemed the effort a success as the “#1 individual on the list” was “believed killed in early January” 2007, while another target was arrested in Kenya the next month. The identities of the people killed and captured, as well as those responsible, are absent from the document.

As the Council of Islamic Courts crumbled in the face of the invasion, its ally, the militant group Shabab, saw Somalis flock to its resistance effort. Fueled and radicalized by the same chaos exploited by the NSA, Shabab grew in strength. By 2012, the terrorist group had formally become an Al Qaeda affiliate. Today, the U.S. continues to battle Shabab in an escalatingconflict in Somalia that shows no sign of abating.

The first batch of Ethiopian troops leaving the Somali capital Mogadishu hold a departure ceremony 23 January 2007 at Afisiyooni Air Base. Ethiopian troops began withdrawing from Mogadishu nearly four weeks after they helped oust Islamist forces from the Somali capital. A special departure ceremony was held for the pullout of the first batch of around 200 soldiers at the former headquarters of the Somali air force in the southern outskirts of the capital. AFP PHOTO/STRINGER        (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/GettyImages)

The first batch of Ethiopian troops leaving the Somali capital Mogadishu hold a departure ceremony Jan. 23, 2007 at Afisiyooni Air Base.

Photo: Stringer/AFP/Getty Images

At the time the NSA set up Lion’s Pride, the U.S. State Department had criticized Ethiopia’s security forces for having “infringed on citizens’ privacy rights,” ignoring the law regarding search warrants, beating detainees, and conducting extrajudicial killings. By 2005, with Lion’s Pride markedly expanded, nothing had changed. The State Department found:

The Government’s human rights record remained poor. … Security forces committed a number of unlawful killings, including alleged political killings, and beat, tortured, and mistreated detainees. … The Government infringed on citizens’ privacy rights, and the law regarding search warrants was often ignored. The Government restricted freedom of the press. … The Government at times restricted freedom of assembly, particularly for members of opposition political parties; security forces at times used excessive force to disperse demonstrations. The Government limited freedom of association. …

A separate State Department report on Ethiopia’s counterterrorism and anti-terrorism capabilities, issued in November 2013 and obtained by The Intercept via the Freedom of Information Act, noted that there were “inconsistent efforts to institutionalize” anti-terrorism training within Ethiopian law enforcement and added that while the Ethiopian Federal Police use surveillance and informants, “laws do not allow the interception of telephone or electronic communications.” The readable sections of the redacted report make no mention of the NSA program and state that the U.S. “maintains an important but distant security relationship with Ethiopia.”

A 2010 NSA document offers a far different picture of the bond between the security agencies of the two countries, noting that the “NSA-Ethiopian SIGINT relationship continues to thrive.”

In an after-action report, a trainer from NSA Georgia’s “Sudan/Horn of Africa Division” described teaching a class attended by soldiers from the Ethiopian National Defense Forces and civilians from Ethiopia’s Information Network Security Agency. He praised the Ethiopians for “work[ing] so hard on our behalf” and wrote that his students were “excited and eager to learn.”

According to the documents, analysts from the Army’s 741st Military Intelligence Battalion were still detailed to Lion’s Pride while the Ethiopians they worked beside had increased their skills at analyzing intercepted communications. “More importantly, however,” the American trainer noted, “is the strengthening of the relationship” between NSA and Ethiopian security forces. NSA Georgia, he declared, was eager to continue “developing the relationship between us and our Ethiopian counterparts.”

The NSA refused to comment on whether Lion’s Pride continues to eavesdrop on the region, but no evidence suggests it was ever shut down. There is, however, good reason to believe that U.S. efforts have strengthened the hand of the Ethiopian government. And a decade and a half after it was launched, Ethiopia’s human rights record remains as dismal as ever.

“Governments that provide Ethiopia with surveillance capabilities that are being used to suppress lawful expressions of dissent risk complicity in abuses,” says Horne. “The United States should come clean about its role in surveillance in the Horn of Africa and should have policies in place to ensure Ethiopia is not using information gleaned from surveillance to crack down on legitimate expressions of dissent inside Ethiopia.”

———

Documents published with this article:

HOW THE NSA BUILT A SECRET SURVEILLANCE NETWORK FOR ETHIOPIA

The Intercept

“A WARM FRIENDSHIP connects the Ethiopian and American people,” U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced earlier this year. “We remain committed to working with Ethiopia to foster liberty, democracy, economic growth, protection of human rights, and the rule of law.”

Indeed, the website for the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia is marked by press releases touting U.S. aid for farmers and support for public health infrastructure in that East African nation. “Ethiopia remains among the most effective development partners, particularly in the areas of health care, education, and food security,” says the State Department.

Behind the scenes, however, Ethiopia and the U.S. are bound together by long-standing relationships built on far more than dairy processing equipment or health centers to treat people with HIV. Fifteen years ago, the U.S. began setting up very different centers, filled with technology that is not normally associated with the protection of human rights.

In the aftermath of 9/11, according to classified U.S. documents published Wednesday by The Intercept, the National Security Agency forged a relationship with the Ethiopian government that has expanded exponentially over the years. What began as one small facility soon grew into a network of clandestine eavesdropping outposts designed to listen in on the communications of Ethiopians and their neighbors across the Horn of Africa in the name of counterterrorism.

In exchange for local knowledge and an advantageous location, the NSA provided the East African nation with technology and training integral to electronic surveillance. “Ethiopia’s position provides the partnership unique access to the targets,” a commander of the U.S. spying operation wrote in a classified 2005 report. (The report is one of 294 internal NSA newsletters released today by The Intercept.)

The NSA’s collaboration with Ethiopia is high risk, placing the agency in controversial territory. For more than a decade, Ethiopia has been engaged in a fight against Islamist militant groups, such as Al Qaeda and Shabab. But the country’s security forces have taken a draconian approach to countering the threat posed by jihadis and stand accused of routinely torturing suspects and abusing terrorism powers to target political dissidents.

“The Ethiopian government uses surveillance not only to fight terrorism and crime, but as a key tactic in its abusive efforts to silence dissenting voices in-country,” says Felix Horne, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch. “Essentially anyone that opposes or expresses dissent against the government is considered to be an ‘anti-peace element’ or a ‘terrorist.’”

The NSA declined to comment for this story.

Addis Ababa is the capital city of Ethiopia. It is the largest city in Ethiopia with a population of 3.4 million. (Photo from March 2014) | usage worldwide Photo by: Yannick Tylle/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Addis Ababa is the capital city of Ethiopia.

Photo: Yannick Tylle/picture-alliance/dpa/AP

In February 2002, the NSA set up the Deployed Signals Intelligence Operations Center – also known as “Lion’s Pride” – in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, according to secret documents obtained by The Intercept from the whistleblower Edward Snowden. It began as a modest counterterrorism effort involving around 12 Ethiopians performing a single mission at 12 workstations. But by 2005, the operation had evolved into eight U.S. military personnel and 103 Ethiopians, working at “46 multifunctional workstations,” eavesdropping on communications in Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. By then, the outpost in Addis Ababa had already been joined by “three Lion’s Pride Remote Sites,” including one located in the town of Gondar, in northwestern Ethiopia.

“[The] NSA has an advantage when dealing with the Global War on Terrorism in the Horn of Africa,” reads an NSA document authored in 2005 by Katie Pierce, who was then the officer-in-charge of Lion’s Pride and the commander of the agency’s Signal Exploitation Detachment. “The benefit of this relationship is that the Ethiopians provide the location and linguists and we provide the technology and training,” she wrote.  According to Pierce, Lion’s Pride had already produced almost 7,700 transcripts and more than 900 reports based on its regional spying effort.

Pierce, now a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve and a lawyer in private practice, had noted her role with the NSA’s Ethiopia unit in an online biography. When contacted by The Intercept, she said little about her time with Lion’s Pride or the work of the NSA detachment. “We provided a sort of security for that region,” she said. The reference to the NSA in Pierce’s online biography has since disappeared.

Reta Alemu Nega, the minister of political affairs at the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington, D.C., told The Intercept that the U.S. and Ethiopia maintained “very close cooperation” on issues related to intelligence and counterterrorism. While he did not address questions about Lion’s Pride, Alemu described regular meetings in which U.S. and Ethiopian defense officials “exchange views” about their partnership and shared activities.

Al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam militants take a break at a front-line section in sanca district in Mogadishu,  on July 21, 2009. Somalia's hard line Shabab militia yesterday raided the offices of three UN organisations hours after they banned their operations on accusation that they were "enemies of Islam and Muslims. The armed group stormed the United Nations Development Programme, UN Department of Safety and Security and the UN Political Office for Somalia in two southern Somalia towns and impounded office equipment. The above foreign agencies have been found to be working against the benefit of the Somali Muslim population and against the establishment of an Islamic state in Somalia," the Shebab said in a statement. AFP PHOTO/ MOHAMED DAHIR        (Photo credit should read MOHAMED DAHIR/AFP/GettyImages)

Shabab and Hizbul Islam militants take a break at a front-line section in Sanca district in Mogadishu, on July 21, 2009.

Photo: Mohamed Dahir/AFP/Getty Images

Lion’s Pride does not represent the first time that Ethiopia has played a vital role in U.S. signals surveillance. In 1953, the U.S. signed a 25-year agreement for a base at Kagnew Station in Asmara, Ethiopia, according to a declassified NSA report obtained by the nonprofit National Security Archive. Navy and Army communications facilities based there were joined by an NSA outpost just over a decade later.

On April 23, 1965, the Soviet Union launched Molniya-1, its first international communications satellite. The next month, the NSA opened STONEHOUSE, a remote listening post in Asmara. The facility was originally aimed at Soviet deep space probes but, in the end, “[its] main value turned out to be the collection of Soviet MOLNIYA communications satellites,” according to a 2004 NSA document that mentions STONEHOUSE.

STONEHOUSE was closed down in 1975 due to a civil war in Ethiopia. But its modern-day successor, Lion’s Pride, has proved to be “such a lucrative source for SIGINT reports” that a new facility was built in the town of Dire Dawa in early 2006, according to a secret NSA document. “The state of the art antenna field surrounded by camels and donkey-drawn carts is a sight to behold,” reads the NSA file. The effort, code-named “LADON,” was aimed at listening in on communications across a larger swath of Somalia, down to the capital Mogadishu, the Darfur region of Sudan, and parts of eastern Ethiopia.

At a May 2006 planning conference, the Americans and Ethiopians decided on steps to “take the partnership to a new level” through an expanded mission that stretched beyond strictly counterterrorism. Targeting eastern Ethiopia’s Ogaden region and the nearby Somali borderlands, the allied eavesdroppers agreed on a mission of listening in on cordless phones in order to identify not only “suspected al-Qa’ida sympathizers” but also “illicit smugglers.”

“It is very troubling to hear the U.S. is providing surveillance capacities to a government that is committing such egregious human rights abuses in that region.”

From the time Lion’s Pride was set up until predominantly ChristianEthiopia invaded mostly Muslim Somalia in December 2006, the U.S. poured about $20 million in military aid into the former country. As Ethiopian troops attempted to oust a fundamentalist movement called the Council of Islamic Courts, which had defeated several warlords to take power in Somalia, Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Joe Carpenter said the two nations had “a close working relationship” that included sharing intelligence. Within a year, Ethiopian forces were stuck in a military quagmire in Somalia and were facing a growing rebellion in the Ogaden region as well.

“While the exact nature of U.S. support for Ethiopian surveillance efforts in the Ogaden region is not clear, it is very troubling to hear the U.S. is providing surveillance capacities to a government that is committing such egregious human rights abuses in that region,” says Horne, the Human Rights Watch researcher.  “Between 2007-2008 the Ethiopian army committed possible war crimes and crimes against humanity against civilians in this region during its conflict with the Ogaden National Liberation Front.”

For the U.S., “the chaos” caused by the invasion “yielded opportunities for progress in the war on terrorism,” stated a top secret NSA documentdated February 2007.  According to the document, the Council of Islamic Courts was harboring members of an Al Qaeda cell that the NSA’s African Threat Branch had been tracking since 2003. After being flushed from hiding by the Ethiopian invasion, the NSA provided “24-hour support to CIA and U.S. military units in the Horn of Africa,” utilizing various surveillance programs to track Council of Islamic Courts leaders and their Al Qaeda allies. “Intelligence,” says the document, “was also shared with the Ethiopian SIGINT partner to enable their troops to track High Value Individuals.” The NSA deemed the effort a success as the “#1 individual on the list” was “believed killed in early January” 2007, while another target was arrested in Kenya the next month. The identities of the people killed and captured, as well as those responsible, are absent from the document.

As the Council of Islamic Courts crumbled in the face of the invasion, its ally, the militant group Shabab, saw Somalis flock to its resistance effort. Fueled and radicalized by the same chaos exploited by the NSA, Shabab grew in strength. By 2012, the terrorist group had formally become an Al Qaeda affiliate. Today, the U.S. continues to battle Shabab in an escalatingconflict in Somalia that shows no sign of abating.

The first batch of Ethiopian troops leaving the Somali capital Mogadishu hold a departure ceremony 23 January 2007 at Afisiyooni Air Base. Ethiopian troops began withdrawing from Mogadishu nearly four weeks after they helped oust Islamist forces from the Somali capital. A special departure ceremony was held for the pullout of the first batch of around 200 soldiers at the former headquarters of the Somali air force in the southern outskirts of the capital. AFP PHOTO/STRINGER        (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/GettyImages)

The first batch of Ethiopian troops leaving the Somali capital Mogadishu hold a departure ceremony Jan. 23, 2007 at Afisiyooni Air Base.

Photo: Stringer/AFP/Getty Images

At the time the NSA set up Lion’s Pride, the U.S. State Department had criticized Ethiopia’s security forces for having “infringed on citizens’ privacy rights,” ignoring the law regarding search warrants, beating detainees, and conducting extrajudicial killings. By 2005, with Lion’s Pride markedly expanded, nothing had changed. The State Department found:

The Government’s human rights record remained poor. … Security forces committed a number of unlawful killings, including alleged political killings, and beat, tortured, and mistreated detainees. … The Government infringed on citizens’ privacy rights, and the law regarding search warrants was often ignored. The Government restricted freedom of the press. … The Government at times restricted freedom of assembly, particularly for members of opposition political parties; security forces at times used excessive force to disperse demonstrations. The Government limited freedom of association. …

A separate State Department report on Ethiopia’s counterterrorism and anti-terrorism capabilities, issued in November 2013 and obtained by The Intercept via the Freedom of Information Act, noted that there were “inconsistent efforts to institutionalize” anti-terrorism training within Ethiopian law enforcement and added that while the Ethiopian Federal Police use surveillance and informants, “laws do not allow the interception of telephone or electronic communications.” The readable sections of the redacted report make no mention of the NSA program and state that the U.S. “maintains an important but distant security relationship with Ethiopia.”

A 2010 NSA document offers a far different picture of the bond between the security agencies of the two countries, noting that the “NSA-Ethiopian SIGINT relationship continues to thrive.”

In an after-action report, a trainer from NSA Georgia’s “Sudan/Horn of Africa Division” described teaching a class attended by soldiers from the Ethiopian National Defense Forces and civilians from Ethiopia’s Information Network Security Agency. He praised the Ethiopians for “work[ing] so hard on our behalf” and wrote that his students were “excited and eager to learn.”

According to the documents, analysts from the Army’s 741st Military Intelligence Battalion were still detailed to Lion’s Pride while the Ethiopians they worked beside had increased their skills at analyzing intercepted communications. “More importantly, however,” the American trainer noted, “is the strengthening of the relationship” between NSA and Ethiopian security forces. NSA Georgia, he declared, was eager to continue “developing the relationship between us and our Ethiopian counterparts.”

The NSA refused to comment on whether Lion’s Pride continues to eavesdrop on the region, but no evidence suggests it was ever shut down. There is, however, good reason to believe that U.S. efforts have strengthened the hand of the Ethiopian government. And a decade and a half after it was launched, Ethiopia’s human rights record remains as dismal as ever.

“Governments that provide Ethiopia with surveillance capabilities that are being used to suppress lawful expressions of dissent risk complicity in abuses,” says Horne. “The United States should come clean about its role in surveillance in the Horn of Africa and should have policies in place to ensure Ethiopia is not using information gleaned from surveillance to crack down on legitimate expressions of dissent inside Ethiopia.”

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Documents published with this article: